Melbourne - Long called upon to rescue his team from treacherous situations, Australia captain Michael Clarke could do little to save his close friend Phillip Hughes, but bore his grief quietly in a vital supporting role for his "little brother's" family.
Clarke was among the first to arrive at St Vincent's hospital on Tuesday after Hughes was rushed there with a sickening head injury and read the family's statement upon his death, three days before his 26th birthday.
In between, the 33-year-old was rarely away from the bedside of the player he mentored and ushered into New South Wales and later the national team.
TV footage showed Clarke walking briskly through the Sydney hospital's doors early every morning and trudging out despondent much later in the day.
He returned at 06:00 on Thursday, perhaps hoping for some better news as Hughes, who never regained consciousness after being struck on the neck by a rising delivery in a domestic match, entered a third day in an induced coma.
Unshaven, with rings under his eyes, Clarke's head was bowed as he read the family statement, his voice clear if a little gravelly. He didn't trip on a single word but after reading the final phrase - "we love you" - he exited quickly, overcome.
"Phillip has always been a little brother to Michael," team doctor Peter Brukner said, his voice quivering with emotion.
"Michael's efforts over the last 48 hours to support the family - the family was obviously going through a difficult time - but I'm not sure they would have coped without Michael's assistance.
"I was just enormously impressed at the work he did and the genuine care and love he gave to the Hughes family."
Clarke spent time consoling the other party to the tragedy, all-rounder Sean Abbott, whose ball reared up and ruptured an artery, causing a rush of blood to Hughes' brain that ultimately proved fatal.
"When he came to the hospital on Wednesday, Michael Clarke came down and spent a significant amount of time with (Abbott)," Brukner added.
Clarke is nursing a hamstring injury, battling to be fit for a first Test against India that may yet be called off.
Pundits this week called him selfish to try to prove his fitness with his Sydney club rather than play a tour match against India as selectors had wanted.
Others have written his body off completely, calling on him to step down as captain, or at least give up one-day cricket.
The events this week underscored the trivial nature of the episode and the media attention it created.
Grief-stricken Clarke's leadership will be needed in coming days, even without a ball bowled in anger.